Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Red casserole dish filled with cooked greens, sitting on butcher block

A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like these Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey.

Chef’s Notes


What is Southern cooking without greens? There are lots of different ways to go, and almost no way to go wrong. Just be sure to cook the greens long enough, and don’t add any extra salt until done.

We chose to add smoked turkey to this dish to build truly rich flavors into something very simple. If you don’t have a smoker, smoked turkey wings or legs are readily available, fresh or frozen, at most local grocers. Or you can make this dish vegan by omitting the turkey and smoking the onions before adding—or simply cook it over a campfire to achieve a rich, smoky flavor.  

Recipe: Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey


Makes 8 Portions


Ingredients

2 lb                  Fresh Collard Greens

8 oz                  White Onion

8 cloves           Fresh Garlic

8 oz                  Smoked Turkey Wing Meat

1 oz                  Cider Vinegar

4 C                   Vegetable Stock/Broth

To taste           Salt and Pepper



Procedure

 

  1. Dice onions and sauté in a pot until translucent.
  2. Mince garlic and add to pot along with turkey wings.
  3. Deglaze pan with cider vinegar, then add in chopped collard greens and vegetable stock.
  4. Simmer on low until greens are tender and all liquid has been absorbed, approximately 1 ½ hours.
  5. Season with salt and pepper as needed.



Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

restaurants, Greenfield Village, food, George Washington Carver, by Eric Schilbe, making, recipes

Gray mannequin head with a white, cut-paper wig topped with a straw boater hat with wide black ribbon

For a museum professional who takes care of collection objects, it isn’t often that the opportunity to be crafty comes along. When it does, however, those random skills you never thought would be useful come in handy.

Case in point was a mannequin for our latest What We Wore display, featuring clothing and accessories related to sports, that needed a fresh hairstyle. Paper wigs are useful in creating a simple look, but can also give a “wow” factor that regular wigs cannot. For our cycling mannequin, we attempted the windswept, curly style of the early 20th century. What follows is the process it took to make this paper wig. May it inspire you to try crafting your own!

The useful tips and tricks detailed by the FIDM Museum & Galleries and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences were invaluable resources to start the process. First, the search for suitable paper was a challenge, based on the recommendation of a 70 lb. watercolor paper. The art store had a wide selection of papers, but nothing that fit that description perfectly. We tried two samples: a 74 lb. smooth, waterproof synthetic paper made of polypropylene, and a textured 90 lb. cotton fiber watercolor paper. Both had their strengths and weaknesses, based on dyeability, strength, and size. Trial and error with curling the papers determined that the cotton fiber paper was best for this project because it was a bit more durable and gave us the option for coloring the paper.

Two types of white paper lying overlapped on a grid background
Comparison of the synthetic paper on top and the cotton fiber watercolor paper on bottom.

The next step was deciding how to cut the paper into strips. We tried straight, long “hairs,” and a half-rainbow segment, but ultimately went with a wavy rainbow that created the perfect curly appearance.

White paper cut into straight strips, half-arc strips, and wavy half-arc strips
Leave a ½-inch edge at the top of the hair sections, as this will be the “roots” that attach to the mannequin head.

As for curling the strands, here is where those random skills help! The suggestion was to wrap the paper strands around a #2 pencil or the end of a paintbrush to create the waves. However, we found that pulling the paper with scissors, a technique used for curling balloon ribbons, was most effective in getting the result we wanted.

We then took our fabric-covered foam head and decided where the hairline should start and in which direction to start attaching the strand sections. We used straight pins to keep the “hair” in place, but you could also use double-sided tape or glue, depending on the material of the mannequin head and its intended use afterwards. For us, since the hair is pinned in place, it is easily removable for the next exhibit.

Three hands pinning curled white paper to a gray mannequin head

A hat would be placed on top, so we pulled the sections of hair back around a ball of tissue paper for volume and extra support. These sections were taped, because the pins would slide out from such a thick amount of paper to secure. A circular piece of foam was placed on top of the head so that the hat could be secured in place with long pins

An arm extends, holding up a complex white cut paper shape, while two hands in lower left also hold the shape
Ball of tissue inside the first layers of “hair.”

White cut-paper shape with straw boater hat on top is shaped by two hands
Attaching the final strands to the head.

The great thing about paper wigs is that you are limited only by your own creativity! Ribbons, feathers, and hairpins can all be added to create even more style. Depending on the paper used, colorful looks are also an option.

And voila! Here we have our cycling fashionista enjoying some time with her other athletic friends. Be sure to come to the museum and see our new What We Wore exhibit, featuring sports, on display all summer.

Mannequin wearing dress and paper wig topped with straw boater hat in display case with other items and text panels
The cyclist, with her paper wig, in the What We Wore sports display, currently on exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.


Marlene Gray is Senior Conservator at The Henry Ford.

by Marlene Gray, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, making, fashion, What We Wore, Henry Ford Museum, collections care

Several people look at a museum exhibit, standing among display cases and cars

Since the opening on March 27, 2021, of The Henry Ford's newest permanent exhibition, Driven to Win: Racing in America presented by General Motors­, hundreds of guests have experienced the enthusiasm and excitement it creates in all who walk through its 24,000 square feet. Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford, explains that "motorsports and the Driven to Win exhibit fit precisely within the vision of The Henry Ford because the spirit of racing is indelibly intertwined with a singular focus on innovation and is rife with concrete examples of that can-do spirit, that attitude that's at the heart of America."

Driven to Win has been in the works for more than a decade. Many creative and innovative minds came together to make it a reality. When the idea of a permanent racing exhibit arose, it presented an opportunity to take the idea to those on a national platform. The Henry Ford sought advice and assistance from leaders in the world of motorsports, including Edsel B. Ford II, Jack Roush, and Roger Penske.

For Spence Medford, vice president and chief advancement officer at The Henry Ford, "It was more than just raising money for an exhibit; it was the opportunity to take the good word and message of The Henry Ford on the road. We were able to take our mission all over to different races and race tracks and introduce it to those who otherwise would never have heard of our mission had we not put this exhibit into motion." The national platform gave The Henry Ford a chance to also share our mission internationally and reach racing enthusiasts all over the world.

Two people look at a low race car in a museum exhibit space that looks like a garage

Driven to Win highlights the stories, artifacts, and people who were the driving forces and true champions of racing. By telling these stories, we hope to inspire the next generation of racers, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and racing fans. Everyone who comes to see the exhibition will be able to unlock their own potential in the stories of failures, successes, and the spirit of never giving up, told through the lives of the people who are highlighted.

Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for General Motors, agrees: "Driven to Win: Racing in America is inspiring because it tells the story of the people that were integral to the sport. The exhibit tells the story through actual race cars, artifacts, engines, and transmissions. We need to inspire more people to discover opportunities within racing, and this exhibit will do just that."

Lyn St. James, racing legend and official adviser to the exhibition, was excited to learn that we would be showcasing the vast history of all automotive racing groups within the United States. "I was so taken with the fact that this would be an opportunity to not just tell the history of Ford racing but the history of racing in America and how competition and innovation impact society. This exhibit will bring it to life in a quality way. It is an influencer of how people are going to perceive our sport."

A person sits in a car simulator in front of three large screens displaying a race track

Beth Paretta, CEO and team principal of Paretta Autosport, concurs: "I think taking time to go through a place like The Henry Ford that is rich in content allows you to take a pause. It gives you that moment to look at the past and hopefully see it in the context of when those events happened. We can learn lessons from winning and losing and what that turns into. The Henry Ford is such a great place to get ideas and spark imagination."

Everyone who comes to see Driven to Win will find something that inspires them. After walking through the exhibition, Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, said, "I think that a lot of people who go through this display, even if they are not hard-core motorsports fans, a lot of the history is going to resonate with them. The things they didn't completely understand about the history of racing before will make sense when it is right in front of them. They will be able to connect to it, and that's not going to change."

The Henry Ford would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to all those who helped make this exhibition a dream come true. To our sponsors—General Motors, Rolex, Brembo, and Multimatic—none of this would have been possible without your collaboration and efforts. We are very grateful for your partnerships. To all of our supporters and friends that have we gained along the way, you have truly helped to bring Driven to Win: Racing in America to life. Thank you for helping to fuel our passion and that of all those who will experience racing in America for generations to come.


Caroline Heise is Annual Fund Specialist at The Henry Ford.

philanthropy, The Henry Ford Effect, by Caroline Heise, Henry Ford Museum, Driven to Win, racing

Weathervanes have helped humans for millennia. In ancient cities, streamers or pennants mounted at high points communicated wind patterns to watchers below. In more recent centuries, weathervanes in the form we might recognize today perched atop high structures, pointing into the wind to reveal its precise direction. These devices heralded weather changes by indicating shifts in prevailing winds—essential information for farmers or mariners whose businesses depended entirely on the weather.

Weathervanes of this type rotated freely, in perfect balance, with weight distributed across a longer “tail” end that was pushed by the wind, and a shorter “arrow” end that pointed in the direction from which it blew. Starting with this basic form, tradesmen and commercial manufacturers created a vast array of weathervane ornaments by the late nineteenth century. These could communicate more than practical information about the wind. A weathervane might represent regional identity or personal interests, convey religious or political symbolism, or advertise goods or services.

Drawings of weathervanes in the shape of animals and ornamental patterns
Commercial manufacturers produced a vast array of weathervane ornaments by the late nineteenth century. / THF622046 (detail)

Several drawings of weathervanes featuring different sheep varieties; also contains text
Several drawings of weathervanes featuring different roosters; also contains text
Farm animals were a popular choice for rural weathervane customers. Roosters, with their biblical associations, also conveyed religious symbolism and often served as visible moral reminders atop church spires. /
THF622073 and THF622074

Drawing of weathervane featuring shovel and barrel along with arrows labeled E, W, S, N; also contains text
Specialty weathervanes, like this one depicting a malt shovel and beer barrel, doubled as trade advertisements. / THF622201 (detail)

The United States Weather Bureau began generating weather reports based on data collected from across the country in the late 1800s, precipitating the decline of traditional weathervanes. When radio stations began broadcasting national weather reports in 1921, weathervanes became functionally obsolete for most Americans. Nevertheless, weathervanes remained popular. Collectors celebrated them as remarkable examples of American folk art, and twentieth-century manufacturers continued to produce them as nostalgic ornaments for suburban homeowners.

GIF cycling through several images of weathervanes
Supplanted by national weather reporting in the early twentieth century, weathervanes like these became the special interest of folk art collectors. / THF186724, THF186720, THF145466, and THF186729

Catalog cover featuring drawing of house with lamppost and mailbox out front; also contains text
Catalog page with three illustrations of weathervanes featuring a duck, a rooster, and an eagle; also contains text
By the mid-twentieth century, most weathervanes were strictly ornamental, as illustrated by this 1959 catalog. /
THF622033 and THF622034

In updated forms, weathervanes remain important weathercasting tools. As instant indicators of prevailing winds, they are particularly useful at airports, marinas, and sporting events. And meteorologists still rely on weathervanes—often in combination with anemometers, which measure the speed of the wind, as “aerovanes”—to gather data that documents and helps predict weather patterns.

Weathervanes provide evidence of age-old efforts to identify patterns in natural phenomena and predict changes that might affect human survival. These utilitarian artifacts are mostly understood today as whimsical adornments (Hallmark has even released weathervane Christmas ornaments!) only because most Americans have little to no training in meteorology. Yet, weathervanes remain essential weathercasting devices. They can also aid citizen scientists intent on recording climate change locally and globally.

The next time you visit The Henry Ford, look up as you walk around the museum and village to spot weathervanes atop spires and towers. Note how they point into the wind and shift as the breezes blow. In the meantime, you can browse a selection of weathervanes and trade catalogs from weathervane manufacturers in our Digital Collections.


Debra Reid is Curator of Agriculture & the Environment and Saige Jedele is Associate Curator, Digital Content, at The Henry Ford.

decorative arts, home life, by Saige Jedele, by Debra A. Reid

Man stands in large building with round silver metal structure behind him, holding a drawing of the same structure
Blake Almstead.

Ten-year member Blake Almstead finds inspiration in a farmhouse and a man’s passion to preserve America’s story.

Deriving inspiration from all over The Henry Ford, Blake Almstead is drawn to amazing places of innovation like Dymaxion House in the museum. A former New Englander, he also feels the pull of Daggett Farmhouse in Greenfield Village. The Connecticut saltbox structure reminds him of home, and he revels in the working farm’s accurate representation of a period of America’s agricultural history. As president of the Corktown Historical Society, he meanders through the streets of Greenfield Village with a profound sense of gratitude to Henry Ford for his passion to preserve American landmarks and America’s stories of innovation, invention and entrepreneurship. Village structures such as Cohen Millinery and Grimm Jewelry Store were once small businesses located and operating in Detroit’s Corktown, the city’s oldest surviving neighborhood, which Blake now leads efforts to help protect, preserve, and restore.

His must-do:

Coffee at Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop in Greenfield Village on a Sunday morning. “I’m able to think, take notes, sketch and be surrounded by so much that has affected and influenced history ... You can’t help but feel inspired.”

His favorite member perk:

“That free feeling I have knowing I can go to The Henry Ford whenever I want. My mother’s favorite thing is having tea. We’ll just go in Greenfield Village, walk together, have tea at Cotswold Cottage, then take a stroll and maybe pop in to the gift shop. When you’re a member, you have this unlimited access to experiences that you didn’t expect.”

What’s your spark? Let us know what inspires you on your next visit and what takes you forward from your membership. Email us at membership@thehenryford.org. Take it forward as a member—enjoy benefits like free parking, discounts on events and tours, exclusive member previews, and more.

This post was adapted from an article in the January-May 2020 issue of 
The Henry Ford Magazine.

The Henry Ford Magazine, Michigan, Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, Dymaxion House, Detroit

Red dish filled with a vegetable medley; other dishes visible in background

A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like this Sweet Potato Hash.

Chef’s Notes


This hash covers so many of the vegetables Carver used, all in one. This dish is bound to make a big impact on your table, as simple ingredients come together to create this wonderful dish. Follow the cooking directions carefully and the textures and flavors will all be distinct until they meld together on the plate.

You can cook all the ingredients separately and chill until you are ready to eat, then simply sauté everything together in a hot pan—that is what we chefs would do!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash


Makes 8 Portions


Ingredients

1 ½  lb              Sweet Potatoes

¼ C                  Melted Butter

4 oz                  Red Onion

4 oz                  Celery

4 oz                  Red Bell Pepper

2 cloves           Fresh Garlic

1 tsp                Fresh Parsley

To taste           Salt and Pepper

¼ cup               Granulated Peanuts



Procedure

  1. Peel and dice sweet potatoes.
  2. Roast sweet potatoes in 350°F oven until tender.
  3. Dice onions, celery, and red pepper, keeping them all separate.
  4. Melt butter in a large pan and sauté onions until translucent.
  5. Add celery, minced garlic, and red pepper and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
  6. Add peanuts and sweet potatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes, making sure to stir constantly.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.



Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

George Washington Carver, food, making, by Eric Schilbe, Greenfield Village, restaurants, recipes

Brick building with tall clocktower, seen across a large grass lawn with a few trees

For longtime supporters Luke Haase and Denis and Patty Bork, The Henry Ford is a treasure that has filled their lives with memories to last a lifetime. They chose to support The Henry Ford with planned gifts that will help inspire the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and doers.


When asked to share why The Henry Ford is important to him, Luke Haase was eager to tell us why he continues to support The Henry Ford after all these years. He started to come to The Henry Ford when he was just a child, and he can remember taking in all the sights and sounds that Greenfield Village and the museum offered.

When Luke was old enough, he applied for a job at The Henry Ford, which furthered his love of and interest in our rich history and collections. The time he spent visiting and working at The Henry Ford is something he will never forget.

"Now, decades later, I don't live nearby. Yet it's the connection to history that does it for me—to a different era of innovators and to my own childhood," he said. "I love to introduce it to others. It's my most special place."

Longtime supporters Denis and Patty Bork also have fond memories of The Henry Ford and love to visit whenever they can. At age 10, Denis took his first trip to Greenfield Village with his family. He remembers the very moment he spoke into the Edison phonograph at Menlo Park. Because of this experience, he decided to pursue a career in electrical engineering.

A group of children watch a man talking in a room filled with bottles and jars on shelves on the wall

"That moment at Menlo Park haunted me even after retirement," he said. During a visit some 50 years later, Denis went back to Menlo Park and spoke with a presenter. "After telling the presenter my story, she brought out the phonograph, I spoke into it, and my career was finally complete," he said.

To this day Denis and his wife Patty say that they always learn something new even after many visits a year. For the Borks, The Henry Ford is "a great institution with values."

These are just a few stories from three donors who have decided to give back to The Henry Ford. Planned giving is a tax-friendly, creative, and flexible form of giving that can benefit you and the future of The Henry Ford.

When a planned gift is made, the donation goes to the general endowment of the institution, allowing it to pivot and apply the donation to where it is most needed. Planned gifts help The Henry Ford to whether storms and continue to acquire new artifacts so The Henry Ford stays relevant as a top destination for American history.

Liberty Craftworks District inside Greenfield Village

When you make a planned gift, you will be listed as a member in our Clara Bryant Ford Society, which was established to recognize those donors who have included The Henry Ford in their estates. Your gift will help The Henry Ford continue to inspire others to learn from America's traditions to help shape a better future.

To learn more about planned giving and our current opportunities, visit our website to see if this is right for you.


Caroline Heise is Annual Fund Specialist at The Henry Ford.

by Caroline Heise, The Henry Ford Effect, philanthropy

Young man wearing jumpsuit looks at camera as he sits in open race car cockpit
Bobby Unser, 1963. / THF218272


The Henry Ford mourns the loss of Bobby Unser, who passed away on May 2, 2021. He was a good friend to our organization and, of course, one of America’s most accomplished racing drivers.

Bobby Unser was born into automobile racing. His father and uncles grew up in the shadow of Pikes Peak and competed in the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Bobby’s uncle, Louie, earned nine victories in the contest from 1934 to 1953. Bobby’s father, Jerry, finished third as his personal best, but his sons would go on to dominate at Pikes Peak—and Indianapolis.

Bobby Unser was just one year old when his parents, Jerry and Mary, relocated the family from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jerry opened a service station on Route 66—wisely locating it on the west side of town, so his station was the first one motorists saw after traveling across the New Mexico desert. Bobby and his brothers, Jerry Jr., Louis, and Al, grew up working in the station, living and breathing cars. Not surprisingly, they all caught the racing bug. Jerry Jr. and Louis each competed at Pikes Peak for the first time in 1955. Jerry Jr. won his class twice, in 1956 and 1957. He went on to compete in the 1958 Indianapolis 500, but died in a crash during qualifying for Indy the next year. Louis won his class at Pikes Peak in 1960 and 1961, but retired from competitive driving in 1964, when he developed multiple sclerosis. Al earned back-to-back Pikes Peak overall victories in 1964 and 1965. He made his Indy 500 debut in 1965 and went on to become only the second person to win the race four times, taking the checkered flag in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987.

Person wearing face mask, helmet, and jumpsuit drives race car on dirt road with rocky slopes on either side
Bobby Unser racing up Pikes Peak, 1960. / THF217906

Even in a family of racing legends, Bobby Unser stood out. Following service in the Air Force, he made his own debut at Pikes Peak in 1955. He earned the overall victory there the following year, kicking off an incredible run of nine overall wins in 13 years. Altogether, Bobby Unser claimed 10 overall victories and 13 class wins at Pikes Peak between 1956 and 1986. It’s no wonder they called him “King of the Mountain.”

Bobby followed his older brothers to Indianapolis in 1963. His first years at the Brickyard weren’t promising—crashes took him out early in the 1963 and 1964 races, and during qualifying in 1965—but he earned a top-ten finish in 1966. Two years later, Unser won his first victory at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Despite a challenge from Andy Granatelli’s turbine cars, and his own car getting stuck in high gear, Bobby finished nearly a lap ahead of second place finisher Dan Gurney.

Man drinks from glass milk bottle in the midst of a crowd with a large trophy and men in beefeater hats nearby
Bobby Unser drinks the traditional bottle of milk following his first Indy 500 win, 1968. / THF140423

Unser and Gurney went from competitors to collaborators. Bobby joined Gurney’s All American Racers (AAR) as a driver and competed at Indy under the AAR banner through most of the 1970s. The capstone of their partnership came in 1975 when Unser once again became a reigning Indy 500 champion—or, more properly, a “raining” champion. Mother Nature put on the biggest show at the 1975 race. With 174 of the 200 laps down, the skies let loose with a torrential downpour. Visibility fell to nil, the track flooded, and cars spun left and right. Officials called the race early with Unser in the lead. The race may have been abbreviated, but it was enough to give Bobby his second win.

If Unser’s 1975 win was his most dramatic, then his third Indy 500 win, in 1981, was his most controversial. The final lap saw Bobby cross the finish line five seconds ahead of Mario Andretti. But Andretti and his teammates protested that Unser had passed cars illegally while under a caution flag earlier in the race. After a night of review and deliberation, race officials ruled in Andretti’s favor, penalizing Unser one position and giving Andretti the victory. Unser’s team appealed the ruling and, after months of further investigation, officials reinstated Bobby Unser’s win. The whole affair soured Unser’s love for racing, and he retired from IndyCar competition in 1983.

Man in suit and tie with NBC peacock logo on pocket looks at camera
Bobby Unser in his sportscasting days, 1985. / THF222929

Thirteen wins at Pikes Peak, or three wins at the Indianapolis 500, would be enough to put any driver on a list of all-time greats, but Bobby Unser had more achievements still. He earned USAC national championships in 1968 and 1974, and an IROC championship in 1975. Following his retirement, Bobby worked in broadcasting, providing commentary on auto races for ABC, NBC and ESPN.

From the 1990s on, Bobby Unser was lauded by almost every imaginable racing heritage organization and hall of fame. In 2008, he gifted his personal papers to The Henry Ford, giving us a rich record of his career and accomplishments. He also kindly loaned us the family’s 1956 Ford F-100 pickup and the 1958 Moore/Unser car in which he won Pikes Peak seven times. Both vehicles debuted in our new exhibit, Driven to Win: Racing in America, presented by General Motors, just weeks ago.

We share the grief of racing fans everywhere at the loss of a true giant. At the same time, we celebrate Bobby Unser’s many achievements on and off the track, and we feel honored to have a role in preserving a significant part of his legacy.

 

  • Hear Bobby Unser describe his career and accomplishments in his own words on our “Visionaries on Innovation” page here.
  • Explore the Bobby Unser Papers, in the Benson Ford Research Center, through the finding aid here, and browse digitized photographs and other artifacts from the collection here.
  • See highlights from The Henry Ford’s Bobby Unser Collection here.


Close-up of man's head and shoulders, wearing black shirt and smiling at camera
Bobby Unser, 2009. /
THF62889


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

in memoriam, by Matt Anderson, Henry Ford Museum, Driven to Win, race car drivers, racing

Two-story brick building with sign on top

This photograph was taken some time between 1905 and 1911. Why? The sign in the front window of the storefront adjacent to the Wright Cycle Shop shows an undertaker’s business run by L.G. Keller. City of Dayton business directories of this period show Mr. Keller in business at 1127 West Third Street during this span of time. Clearly shown is the C .Webbert Block sign on top of the building and the Wright Cycle sign as well. Bicycle production and sales had ceased by 1905, but until 1909, airplanes and airplane engines were being built and partially assembled here. / THF236870

In 1903, the building that houses the Wright Cycle Shop and the undertakers’ establishment of Fetters & Shank was collectively known as the C. Webbert Block. The building was moved to and restored in Greenfield Village in 1937. It’s a very faithful representation of the two-story, two-storefront building that stood at 1125-1127 West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio, restored to appear as it did at the time of the Wright Brothers' first flight. There was one exception, though—the decoratively lettered sign that graced the top of the bracketed cornice spanning the front façade of the building was missing for over 100 years.

Charles Webbert, a relative by marriage to Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers' mechanic, purchased the building in 1896. Mr. Webbert did an extensive addition to the front that created the double storefront we see in historic photographs. The Wright Brothers were his first tenants. Mr. Webbert was a plumbing supplier, a bicycle enthusiast, and, later, a great supporter of the brothers’ flying efforts. He was friends with Orville and Wilbur, and purchased and bartered both bicycles and bicycle repairs. Rent payments were dependent on what bicycle services were provided.

Between 1897 and 1916, the building saw a variety of uses by the Wright Brothers. Initially, the focus was on bicycles, including two lines of hand-built enameled finished bicycles, the Saint Clair and the Van Cleve. In the late 1890s, bicycles were a lucrative business and the proceeds from the Wrights' successful business became the funding source for everything that would eventually allow the Wright Brothers to fly.

Back view of man working at a table in what appears to be a workshop
Man Working at a Lathe in the Wright Cycle Shop, Dayton, Ohio, 1897 / THF236804

From 1899 until 1909, the building served as the brothers' first experimental laboratory and design studio, dedicated to creating that first flying machine. The first gliders, as well as the first Wright Flyer, were built in sections in the back machine shop, along with the gasoline engines that powered the first flight. For a time, the Wright Cycle Shop was one of the world’s first airplane factories. Following the sale of their first airplane to the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1908, Orville and Wilbur attracted the attention of New York investors and the Wright Company was formed in 1909. The airplane business quickly outgrew the space, and the assembly of airplanes consequently took place in a rented space in the Speedwell Motor Car Company while awaiting completion of a new factory building. The Wrights broke ground on this new facility on Home Road in Dayton in 1910.

After 1909, though manufacturing and final assembly moved elsewhere, the gasoline-powered engines continued to be machined and assembled in the Wright Cycle Shop. Both brothers also kept offices on the second floor, along with their company files and archives.

Following Wilbur’s death from typhoid fever in May of 1912, Orville took over as president of the company and ran the business alone. In 1915, he sold his interests and retired from the Wright Company. He continued to work on aviation design with his own firm but gave up the lease at the Cycle Shop in November of 1916, permanently moving to 15 North Broadway, a few blocks away.

Based on photographic evidence, the C. Webbert sign remained in place from 1897 until 1919, when significant structural changes took place. These included the addition of another bay and a third storefront, later to become 1123 West Third Street. Historic images show the building in its final iteration, as Henry Ford would have first seen it. By the time of the 1919 renovations, the building needed significant repairs, in part due to a huge flood that ravaged downtown Dayton and its neighborhoods in the spring of 1913. Water levels reached nearly to the second floor of the building. By this time, it’s very likely that the sign had deteriorated to the point where it was not practical to redesign it to fit with the new façade, and so it was likely removed.

Facade of two-story brick building with storefronts on ground floor and windows on second floor
This photograph of the vacant building taken in October of 1936 is part of a series taken after Henry Ford purchased the building from Charles Webber, in preparation for dismantling the building and shipping it to Dearborn, Michigan. Its reconstruction in Greenfield Village, without the C. Webbert sign, was completed in the Spring of 1938 with the dedication taking place on April 16, which would have been Wilbur Wright’s 71st birthday. / THF236872

Henry Ford purchased the building from Charles Webbert in 1936 with the understanding that it would be dismantled and moved to Dearborn, where it would be reconstructed in Greenfield Village. For reasons unknown, the sign was never added to the Wright Cycle Shop when it was restored in Greenfield Village in 1937. This is surprising, as it is such a significant architectural element. In 1991, another major restoration of the building took place in the Village, and again, the sign was not included in the project.

As they say, the third time’s the charm.

In 2018, research work began, focused on recreating the sign to more accurately represent the building’s appearance in 1903. In 2019, Mose Nowland, one of our talented conservation department volunteers, created detailed construction drawings based on high resolution scans of original photographs showing the sign still in place. Mose had only a few photographs, taken several years apart, to work with. True to form with his decades of experience, his finished drawings were works of art themselves, and brought to life the exquisite details included in what was the finial crest for the newly-designed façade of the building.

Man wearing plaid shirt holds drawing in front of large sign in workshop space
Mose Nowland poses with one of his detailed architectural drawings, which allowed the C. Webbert sign to come to life again after being missing for 100 years. / Photo by Jim Johnson

Using these wonderful drawings, combined with Mose’s sound advice and suggestions, Mike Zemney, one of our talented carpentry staff, began the construction of the sign. The sign was built in sections, with each decorative element individually hand-crafted, just as it would have been in 1897. Mike used a wide range of techniques and materials, with the ultimate goal of making the sign as weather-proof as possible, with a minimal amount of maintenance required. The sign is a combination of several kinds of water-resistant wood species, copper flashing, and cladding, all carefully sealed. The decorative elements are all three-dimensional, and the sign reaches nearly four feet high and over seven feet long, in perfect proportion to the height and width of the building.

Man in knit hat, khakis, and plaid shirt stands next to large sign in workshop space
Carpenter Mike Zemney with the nearly completed sign he built. In this photograph, the sign has been painted and dry fitted together, with final assembly, sealing, and final painting to take place once it was lifted up onto the building.

Using high-resolution versions of historic photographs, we carefully studied and analyzed these images to determine the color combination to use in painting the sign, along with the rest of the building. What appear to be different colors in some of the photos are actually shadows, as the photographs were taken a few years apart, at different times of the year, and at different times of the day. Based on our analysis, it appears that the building and the entire sign were monochromatic, painted all one color. This was not an uncommon practice for commercial and industrial buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The sign, therefore, was completely covered in many coats of a high-quality paint by Jeff Serwa, one of our dedicated painters.

There were great hopes of completing this project and having everything installed for the opening of Greenfield Village in April of 2020. As we all know, 2020 took a very different direction, and the actual installation of the sign was delayed.

However, I am very happy to announce that over 100 years later, the Wright Cycle Shop is now complete once again, proudly claiming its rightful place as part of the C. Webbert Block.

GIF cycling through several images of a forklift lifting a sign onto a building roof
The sign is lifted onto the top of the building.

GIF cycling through several images of people working with a sign on a rooftop
The sign is carefully installed and secured.

Building roof with large sign with decorative elements and text reading "BLOCK C. Webbert"
The C. Webbert Block sign atop Wright Cycle Shop in Greenfield Village.


Jim Johnson is Director of Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford. Special thanks to the staff and volunteers of The Henry Ford that made this project possible: Mose Nowland, Mary Fahey, Ben Kiehl, Dennis Morrison, Robert Smythe, Mike Zemney, and Jeff Serwa.

by Jim Johnson, research, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, making, Wright Brothers, Greenfield Village history, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, collections care

Car approaching banner marked "Finish Line" on dirt road with rocks on either side and steep dropoff on one side, mountains visible in background

Bobby Unser Crossing the Finish Line, Winner of the 1956 Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Race / THF140569

King of the Mountain


What does it take to “race to the clouds”? Power, handling, endurance—and a spirit to conquer the summits of nature. Hill climbs were one of the very earliest forms of automobile competition. They test a car’s power and handling capabilities, and the car-control skills, focus, and endurance of the driver.

Today, there are many local amateur hill climbs, but the most famous one is the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado, which has been running since 1916. Its tortuous 12.42-mile course has 156 turns and rises from an elevation of 9,390 feet at the start to 14,115 feet at the finish. For good reason, it’s known as the race to the clouds. Bobby Unser is probably the best-known racer to conquer Pikes Peak. He won the overall event a record ten times—in 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968, and 1986—which earned him the title “King of the Mountain.”

1958 Moore/Unser Pikes Peak Hill Climb Car


Side view of red, blue, and white open cockpit race car with large "92" and other text on side
1958 Moore/Unser Pikes Peak Hill Climb Racing Car. On Loan from Bobby and Lisa Unser. / THF91311

Bobby Unser won seven of his ten Pikes Peak overall victories in this car, including five straight (1959–63), along with 1966 and 1968. In this section of our new racing exhibit, Driven to Win: Racing in America, presented by General Motors, you can "meet" Unser while he tells you what it took to win all those Pikes Peak races. Learn how he continually improved the car, making it lighter by modifying the frame and suspension and switching to an aluminum radiator, transmission case, and fuel tank.

Additional Artifacts


Silver vase-shaped trophy with text and pattern of grapes, and handles made out of antlers
THF104667

Beyond the Moore/Unser car, you can see these artifacts related to hill climb racing in Driven to Win.


Dig Deeper


Car rounding an uphill hairpin curve in a cloud of dust on a dirt road with mountains in the background
Frank Sanborn Driving Chevrolet Stock Car at Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb, Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 4, 1962 / THF246832

Learn more about hill climb racing with these additional resources from The Henry Ford.

cars, race cars, race car drivers, racing, Driven to Win, Henry Ford Museum